LIVE: Moses Boyd @ Electric Brixton, London

Those fortunate enough to witness South London's contemporary jazz maestro Moses Boyd on home turf certainly lucked-out before lockdown.
Posted: 13 April 2020 Words: James Kilpin

(More than) enough has been written about the new generation of UK jazz musicians, often from South East London, who are confronting expectations and in many ways redefining long-held associations held with the word ‘jazz’ for music fans of all ages. But as neat, demonstrative snapshots go, a pre-show setlist comprised of old-school jungle and 2-step garage from the likes of Ray Keith and Zed Bias respectively does a pretty good job of highlighting the varied influences and the energy of drum maestro Moses Boyd, a central figure in the loose cabal of modern jazz stars.

The set at Electric Brixton on Thursday 12th March opened with ‘Stranger Than Fiction’, a single which, on its release towards the back end of last year, hit harder than almost anything else in the entirety of 2019. Admittedly the live outing is a slightly less impactful version – the trap inspired hi-hats less pronounced, the in-your-face brass stabs absent – but it worked well, a more mellow and spacey version inferred as a sign of what was to come. In reality, these assumptions were quickly confounded by the high-energy follow up, a strobe-lit dancefloor-driven offering that reflects an ever-present throughout the career of Moses Boyd – his introduction to many coming in the form of ‘Rye Lane Shuffle’, which was a club set staple for the likes of Floating Points, Four Tet, Bradley Zero et al. 

Throughout the performance, Boyd dictates the tempo, the dynamics, and the energy levels from his seated position stage left – determining the appropriate time at which to draw to a close the solos of the guitarist, saxophonist, and keyboard player in a way not always seen in jazz performance. Although not a man averse to an extended solo himself, there’s only one fully unaccompanied offering from Boyd, and there’s an obvious excitement and appreciation from the crowd when the laser spotlight shines solely on the drum kit displaying in full silhouette the unfathomably quick hands of the irrepressible talent seated behind the skins.

In fact, although it may sound like a compliment intended to damn with faint praise, the lighting was noticeably superb throughout, adding to the atmosphere without ever being distracting. All coming courtesy of an engineer visibly engaged with the set, moving around the booth like a DJ behind decks; another neat snapshot of what Moses Boyd injects into his brand of jazz, on display in abundance throughout the night.

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